Mom was not wrong about washing your hands before dinner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you should wash your hands not only before eating or preparing food, but after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, handling pets, touching garbage, and of course going to the bathroom, among other situations.  However, with an increase in cleanliness, if water and soap are not available, hand sanitizers are often used.

The use of hand sanitizers is not bad. Overall, any attempt to decrease germs is good, but lately, some concern has surfaced about hand sanitizers causing antibiotic resistance. But this simply is not true. The use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers does not increase the risk of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics because alcohol is not an antibiotic.

In short, hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.  The best means of cleanliness is still good old soap and water.  However, if you have to use a hand sanitizer, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can quickly reduce the number of germs, but will not eliminate all types of germs.

Parents should monitor use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. There has been an increased incidence of poisoning of children due to their use. Most of these products usually come in brightly colored bottles and often smell of food items tempting young children to drink the material.  As long as they are used properly, and under supervision, they are safe to use and will help to protect you and your family.

Unlike alcohol-based hand sanitizers, there is some concern about hand sanitizers containing the chemical triclosan.  Some studies suggest that this chemical may cause an increase in bacterial resistance to antibiotics as well as possibly cause the user to have alterations in hormone levels.  Investigations continue about this topic and studies are often mixed.

In the end, soap and water still reigns supreme.  If this is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a safe option. Last, some caution is warranted while studies continue on other chemicals contained in nonalcoholic-based sanitizers.

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